Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge and Europe's 16 Best Strike Partnerships

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistFebruary 25, 2014

Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge and Europe's 16 Best Strike Partnerships

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    The changing face of football tactics dictates that the old method of going with "two up top" has largely dwindled in recent years, but that's not to say that teams no longer operate with strike partnerships.

    Seeing two attacking team-mates in tandem, linking smartly and ending a move with a shot on goal is one of the finer sights in the game.

    Here we take a look at the best-performing double acts of this season from around Europe's top leagues.


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    These rankings are formed on the basis of performances and partnerships from the current 2013-14 season.

    Therefore partnerships must be in place within current team structures.

    With fewer teams operating with two out-and-out strikers than in previous years, a number of considerations can be made for what constitutes a modern partnership.

    A duo can be classified as a partnership if they operate in a wide forward and centre forward combination or in a No. 9 and No. 10 role, as long as both players do play as a main central striker with some regularity.

    Wide forwards who are almost exclusively just that (see Cristiano Ronaldo, Eden Hazard, etc.) would not be classed as part of a striker partnership.

    Finally, these are for club level, domestic partnerships only—no international front duos were considered.

Honourable Mentions

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    Seydou Doumbia and Ahmed Musa of CSKA Moscow have hit 14 goals between them, but they may have fared better had Doumbia not missed large stretches with injury. Winger Musa has had to play centrally often as a result.

    Romelu Lukaku and Kevin Mirallas link well and are a big part of Everton's attack, though Mirallas has only really seen playing time in a central role to cover for his compatriot Lukaku's injury.

    Andriy Voronin and Aleksandr Kokorin have netted 13 between them at Dynamo Moscow in the Russian Premier League this season, usually with the Ukrainian operating slightly deeper than his Russian partner.

    Manolo Gabbiadini and Eder are Sampdoria's front two who have netted 15 goals between them this season. The Italian can operate from the wide areas or centrally, while Eder is a big set-piece threat.

16. Hulk and Alexander Kerzhakov, Zenit St. Petersburg

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    Zenit St. Petersburg's front two are Alexander Kerzhakov, the striker, and Hulk, the wide forward.

    Zenit sit second in the Russian Premier League table and are challenging for the title, and they would no doubt love if Kerzhakov could find his best form. Unable to hit the target reliably this season, Hulk has been moved central of late, with the Russian striker used as an impact sub.

    Playing together with both in form, they are a dangerous combination, but only Hulk has really shown his best form this term, thus their low ranking. The Brazilian has nine league goals, while Kerzhakov has four.

15. Nolan Roux and Salomon Kalou, Lille

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    Lille pair Salomon Kalou and Nolan Roux are both versatile enough to play from a wider role or through the centre, but they are regularly paired as the top two alongside each other.

    The team are not exactly free scoring, with just 28 in 26 games this season, but the efficiency of their play nonetheless sees them in third place in Ligue 1.

    Kalou and Roux have hit 13 goals between them—Kalou notching one more than his team-mate—as well as five assists.

14. Amauri and Cassano

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    Parma front two Antonio Cassano and Amauri have hit 14 goals between them this season, with the Italian scoring nine of those and adding five assists.

    Bleacher Report's Jack Rathborn tells us why they have been working so well together:

    When fully fit, Amauri an excellent focal point to the attack; Cassano drifts, his vision can take your breath away and is a dream for Amauri, who knows if he can gain half a yard inside the area, Cassano can deliver it on a plate for him. Amauri is deceptively creative in the way he can hold off the defender and release Cassano with a quick one-two. Manager Roberto Donadoni also sometimes goes 4-3-3, with Cassano left and Jonathan Biabiany right.

13. Max Kruse and Raffael, Borussia Moenchengladbach

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    Borussia Moenchengladbach are one of the regular proponents of variations of the 4-4-2 system, and in front players Raffael and Max Kruse, they have a hardworking and technical pairing.

    The two lead the club in both assists and goals, with five apiece for assists and 18 between them for goals. Brazilian Raffael has reached double figures, with Kruse two behind.

    'Gladbach are sixth in the Bundesliga.

12. Immobile and Cerci

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    Torino are still in the hunt for European football through their Serie A placing and much of that is due to the goalscoring exploits of Alessio Cerci and Ciro Immobile.

    They have plundered 24 goals between them, the latter hitting 13, with 10 assists coming heavily weighted in favour of Cerci. B/R's Gianni Verschueren tells us more:

    One of the most exciting talents to emerge from the Juventus youth setup in recent years, Immobile has long been touted as the future of the Old Lady. Paired with the constant threat of the mercurial Alessio Cerci, the talented youngster is finally unlocking his potential and currently leads Serie A in goals. Together, they form a deadly frontline that almost rivals that of their cross-town rivals.

11. Mario Balotelli and Robinho, AC Milan

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    AC Milan have performed well below the level expected of them in the normal course of events, though Clarence Seedorf has shown early signs of turning things around.

    In attack, Mario Balotelli is the main man these days, though several of his 10 goals this season have come from the penalty spot. His pace and strength are big positives and when he can link with a support forward—often Robinho has perhaps looked his best foil—there are signs that he could be the man to fire Milan back up the table.

    Robinho has added three goals and five assists this season, though it will be interesting to see if Kaka is used almost as a second forward from now on.

10. Radamel Falcao and Emmanuel Riviere, Monaco

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    Big-money signing Radamel Falcao might have the bigger name, but it was Emmanuel Riviere who had the goalscoring impact early on this season, even when coming off the bench.

    Colombian Falcao soon found his feet and has weighed in with nine so far, though injury has curtailed his debut season in Ligue 1.

    Riviere continues to have an impact in Falcao's absence, also hitting nine now from the same number of starts as his partner and contributing two assists along the way.

9. Alexandre Lacazette and Bafetimbi Gomis, Lyon

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    The 22-year-old forward Alexandre Lacazette has been one of the real standouts in Ligue 1 outside of the top two clubs, weighing in with 13 goals this season.

    Though he has played on the flanks, he also regularly starts centrally with Bafetimbi Gomis, who, after an initial struggle for his place, has become a regular for Lyon again.

    They have managed 23 goals between them and have helped improve Lyon's early season form to get back into the top six at present.

8. Ikechukwu Uche and Giovani dos Santos, Villarreal

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    Villarreal have a habit of putting together exciting, attack-minded teams with great pace and technique, and this season is no different.

    Nigerian striker Uche is the focal point with his pace and direct approach, and he has really found his touch in front of goal this term—hitting 12 from his 13 league starts. Injury has robbed him of the chance to post even more impressive stats, though Jeremy Perbet showed good form in his absence.

    Alongside Uche is Mexican playmaker Giovani dos Santos, who operates very high up the pitch most often, certainly as a second forward, and looks to drop into space and get on the ball early in counter-attacking moves. Dos Santos has nine goals himself this term and seven assists—Uche has added one assist too.

7. Diego Costa and David Villa, Atletico Madrid

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    Atletico Madrid's success is built around the technique and creativity of their midfield and their attack's prowess in front of goal.

    David Villa and Diego Costa are their regular starters, scoring 32 goals between them in La Liga this season, as well as claiming three assists each.

    Spaniard Villa roams from the centre to the left channel, while Brazilian and possibly soon-to-be-Spaniard Costa bullies and harasses defences all over the park. The two have great goals in them and could yet fire Atleti to the title.

6. Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente, Juventus

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    Juventus are flying in Serie A, nine points clear at the top of the table, and operate with a regular front two of Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente.

    After a year on the sidelines at Bilbao, Llorente took a while to get into his stride, but he has come into fitness and form to hit 10 goals in his first season in Turin so far. Tevez, meanwhile, is the club's top scorer with 14 league goals in 25 games.

    The duo have added another 10 assists between them, and their constant movement and great ability around the penalty area seems to perfectly match each other.

5. Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney, Manchester United

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    Manchester United front two Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney are certainly the best point about the Red Devils' season so far, hitting 21 of the side's 43 league goals between them.

    The Dutchman is ahead by one in the goals scored tally, though Rooney has contributed an additional nine assists to van Persie's two.

    They can play as a two up front or with Rooney behind his team-mate and both possess great shooting ability from outside the box and can link well with the midfield. In short, if they receive the right support, there are few defences equipped to stop them.

4. Leo Messi and Neymar, Barcelona

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    Barcelona have shifted their front line around somewhat this season, with Messi on occasion looking to operate a little deeper than as an out-and-out forward, while his injury issues have also seen the likes of Cesc or Neymar play as centre-forward.

    The Argentine and the Brazilian quickly forged a good understanding, with Neymar setting up a lot of chances for his team-mate in the early stages of this season.

    Even though not quite at their peak during this middle third of this term, they still possess the skill to fire Barcelona to a league and Champions League double if they catch fire now. Neymar and Messi have 21 goals and 16 assists between them—though neither is top of the club's stats in either column.

3. Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo, Manchester City

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    Manchester City's front two can be any pairing from four in reality, such is their strength is in attacking depth, but Alvaro Negredo and Kun Aguero have certainly been the best two individuals and the best combination.

    The duo have hit 24 league goals between them this term, plus another eight assists, as they surged City towards the top of the table early on this season.

    Aguero's injury and a run of lesser form from Negredo have seen the goals slow of late, but the movement by both players is up there with the best forwards on the planet. If they get them both playing in tandem again, City could win the league just by using their explosive front line.

2. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani, PSG

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    Paris Saint-Germain's expensive and explosive duo have a great mix of technical ability, power and consistency in finding the back of the net.

    Cavani often operates from a wider starting point before attacking centrally, with Ibrahimovic as the main goal threat through the middle. The latter's movement in deeper areas allows space for his Uruguayan partner to find the target.

    They have 35 league goals between them and nine assists, with Zlatan claiming 22 strikes and all the assists so far.

1. Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, Liverpool

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    The most in-form and dangerous front pairing in the game at present is Liverpool's duo of Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez.

    Both forwards can play centrally, both have played wide in a 4-3-3, either of them can play a slightly deeper role to link up and get involved in buildup play...and both have been devastating in front of goal.

    Despite a recent run of games without finding the net, Suarez still has more goals than games this season in the Premier League and his team-mate is almost as good, with more goals than starts. The two have 41 league goals between them this season, plus another 14 assists. The Reds' No. 7 leads the league on both metrics this term, while Sturridge has netted in eight league games in a row.